State News

Durham DA: Criticisms of judge not 'fabricated fairy tale'

Posted February 27, 2012

— Embattled Durham County District Attorney Tracey Cline said Monday that she agonized over her decision to accuse a Superior Court judge of corruption last fall.

In the third day of a rare judicial inquiry, Cline faced cross-examination from lawyers who lodged complaints against her for her attacks on Judge Orlando Hudson.

She has in recent months repeatedly accused Hudson of bias against her and has asked to have him barred from handling criminal cases in Durham County. Two other Superior Court judges have found her complaints to be groundless.

Superior Court Judge Robert Hobgood suspended Cline last month, pending the inquiry he's hearing, saying there was probable cause to support the notion that she had "brought the office of the Durham County District Attorney and the entire Durham County justice system into disrepute."

Final arguments in the hearing are expected Thursday, and Hobgood said he would issue his ruling later.

"I'm not sitting here on some fabricated fairy tale," Cline testified Monday. "This is the truth."

Hudson repeatedly moved cases around on the criminal court docket, making it difficult for prosecutors to prepare, she said. He also dismissed two murder cases since December 2010, accusing Cline in his written orders of withholding evidence in one case and of conspiring with police and state authorities in the other to destroy evidence.

Cline has denied both allegations, and she said they upset her so much that she sought ways last fall to remedy the situation. Hudson refused to discuss the matter with her, she said.

"I went to him saying, 'Please tell me what's wrong.' I knew there was something wrong," she said. "My goal was to try to clean up whatever was going on."

Attorney Stephen Lindsay repeatedly asked whether Cline consulted the ethical rules for lawyers before filing her motions against Hudson.

She said her motions don't attack Hudson directly, only his actions, so they shouldn't be considered an ethical violation. She said she has never showed any disrespect to the judge in the courtroom.

Cline sought guidance

Cline said she asked the state Attorney General's Office and the North Carolina State Bar for guidance – she hoped the latter agency would bring in a mediator to handle the dispute – and filed a complaint with the state Judicial Standards Commission.

Durham County District Attorney's Office Judge: Durham DA's actions haven't hurt court system

Cline said she decided she couldn't wait for the commission, which disciplines judges for improper behavior, to act. So, after what she described as extensive prayer and discussions with family and friends, she filed several motions seeking to remove Hudson from cases.

"You think I want to be in this position?" she said. "I did everything I could. It came to a point where, if this continued to happen, it wasn't justice.

"When you talk about being between a rock and a hard place, how could I do my job if I'm not allowed to do my job and protect the citizens of this county?" she said. "I have done everything I could do. What else was left to do? What else?"

As she did during her testimony Friday, Cline said she wished the language she used in the motions wasn't so harsh. Yet, after Lindsay rattled off a series of words and phrases Cline used in the motions, she declined to say what she would have changed.

"I take full responsibility for the language used," she said, adding that no one in her office or with the State Bar or Attorney General's Office advised her on filing the motions.

Judge, police chief support Cline

Several witnesses testified in Cline's defense, saying her accusations against Hudson haven't adversely affected the court system in Durham County.

"Our courts have worked well. They continue to work," Chief District Judge Marcia Morey said. "This may be a distraction to the administration of justice, but it's by no means slowed it down or derailed it."

Durham Police Chief Jose Lopez and veteran defense attorney Bill Cotter also disagreed with the contention that Cline's actions brought disrepute on the court system.

"Most people who know anything about it believe it's a quarrel between two people," Cotter said.

When Cotter said he wouldn't have used some of the phrases Cline used, Lindsay asked whether he thought such verbiage violated ethical standards for lawyers.

"I think that would be a great question for the State Bar as opposed to this petition," Cotter replied.


This story is closed for comments.

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  • wildpig777 Feb 28, 2012

    i admire the da tryin to take down the judge but -- IT AINT GONNA HAPPEN. what the nc justice system needs is A TOTAL TAKE OVER BY THE FEDERAL GOV MENT CUZ I BELIEVE THE NC LEGAL SYSTEM IS THAT BROKEN. the justice system in nc mocks the citzenry of this state.

  • westernwake1 Feb 28, 2012

    "Let me name some words that are in there," Stephen Lindsay, a lawyer working with Sutton, said as he read from one of Cline's motions. "How about: mayhem, malicious, appalling, conspiracy, rape, kidnapping, misconduct, shameful, disgraceful, unimaginable, racism, illegal, unethical, clandestine, cowardly, legally illegitimate, impede, attack, reckless, reprobate, vengeance, selfish, cancer, contempt, retaliate, horrific and insolence?"

    Yeah, we really want a DA in Durham who uses words like these in a filing against a judge that had no basis in fact.

    Quote from:

  • dollibug Feb 28, 2012

    +++++Everybody is investigating everybody.. SBI is investigating local governement, and General Attorney's Office is investigating SBI.. Who the heck are we suppose to trust?

    People can NO LONGER TRUST anyone..believe it or there is CORRUPTION AND COVER UP everywhere..people are in positions who do not need to be there..the are "collecting a paycheck"..instead of doing their is TIME FOR CHANGE..and voters need to VOICE their concern..this DA knew that NOTHING would be done by reporting the judge to the Judicial Standards Commission..nothing is done when attorneys are reported to the bar. It seems like there are 2 sets of laws..and they pick and choose which ones they decide to use..
    There are good attorneys in NC who can "try to help people", according to what is "legal and lawful" and what they do it placed upon deaf ears..those who DO NOT AGREE with the decisions of judges..have NO RECOURSE to anything..there is NO FAIR AND JUST.

  • dollibug Feb 28, 2012

    ++++dolibug: You can't buck the system.. You will lose. You can't fight City Hall or any local City Government especially when it is "Good Ole Boy' or Gang related". We the people will never get a handle on crime or becoming victims because politics outweigh justice!

    Voters can make a difference....but it will take doing research to find out just what a person truly NOT allow the media to decide your vote for you....and then VOICE your concerns to the North Carolina General Assembly members...they are the ones who can MAKE CHANGES and MAKE A is sad when the "good ole boys and girls network" has been allowed to bring the CORRUPTION AND COVER UP into the courts....but as anyone can "see" for themselves....politics has taken over....and this kind of thing is ruining our country...

  • Ex-Republican Feb 27, 2012

    Just get rid of this woman. I'm tired of seeing this stupid story in the news.

  • annforeveryoung Feb 27, 2012

    Boy If you have ever testified in court. How would you have loved to been able to explain yourself in detail, before being cut off. She is being given a lot of latitude in this testimony... Hmmmm Wonder why? Defense is not cutting her off, they are either really inexperienced or well paid.

  • annforeveryoung Feb 27, 2012

    Coming from another state and working for the City of Durham was a real shocker! There is racism, reverse racism, corruption and the good ole boy syndrome.. If you live in Durham and are not a part of any of those three scenarios', MOVE.

  • annforeveryoung Feb 27, 2012

    Before I took my job with the City of Durham I was told by an ex Durham Police Officer "If you do this, keep your eyes open and your mouth shut"!!... Wow was he ever right. You would not believe the stories he had about when he was employed with them and now is retired and very finacially secure!

  • annforeveryoung Feb 27, 2012

    Everybody is investigating everybody.. SBI is investigating local governement, and General Attorney's Office is investigating SBI.. Who the heck are we suppose to trust?

  • annforeveryoung Feb 27, 2012

    dolibug: You can't buck the system.. You will lose. You can't fight City Hall or any local City Government especially when it is "Good Ole Boy' or Gang related". We the people will never get a handle on crime or becoming victims because politics outweigh justice!